By David Hutt
In a small farmstead near the eastern Czech city of Pardubice, Pavel* is tending to his garden.
For the past few years, Pavel has grown five cannabis plants in his greenhouse, the legal limit that Czechs are currently allowed to grow at home for personal use.
But he’s recently invested a few hundred euros in new equipment to allow him to plant ten times as many plants. It’s a crime today but one he hopes won’t be soon if there is a change of government in October.
“It’s a small investment, and I don’t expect to make a fortune, but I know how to grow [marijuana] and I want to make some money from it,“ Pavel says.
Presently, the state only provides a few licences to larger-scale growers who sell their produce to the medical marijuana sector, which has been legal since 2013.
Selling home-grown cannabis for recreational use is strictly illegal.
Like many cannabis-enthusiasts Pavel is a supporter of the opposition Pirate Party, which has long campaigned for legalisation and, according to opinion polls, could give the current ruling coalition a run for its money at October’s ballot.
If they win power, the Pirates have vowed to fully decriminalise marijuana production and use within two years.
A study by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Dependency in 2016 found that the Czech Republic had the largest number of young cannabis users in Europe, with just over a fifth of Czechs aged 15 to 34 admitting to using the drug at least once. By one estimate, at least 550,000 Czechs grow cannabis at home for personal use.